Magnetic Nanoparticles for Oil Removal

Meghan Bialt-DeCelie ’19

Figure 1. Magnetic nanoparticles can be used for efficient removal of oil from water as well as a versatile method for other purification applications.

One of the costliest processes in oil and gas production is safe disposal of produced water. This water contains tiny amounts of oil that are difficult to separate and make water unsafe for the environment. Traditional methods such as gravitational separation of oil are costly and are not reliable for removing the tiny droplets of oil that remain in the water, making water purification difficult.

Nanoparticles Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin led by Saebom Ko PhD explore the potential possibilities of using magnetic nanoparticles for purification applications. The very small size of nanoparticles provides the advantage of a greater amount of surface area for oil to adhere to. Amine functionalized nanoparticles were made by silanization, or coating, of 3-amino propyltriethoxysilane on the surface of magnetic nanoparticles. These coated nanoparticles have a positive surface which allows electrostatic attraction with the slightly negatively charged oil droplets.  The advantage of the nanoparticles being magnetic allows for a faster and more controlled movement of the particles in the desired direction when put in a strong enough magnetic field.

The application of magnetic nanoparticles can extend past oil separation. Coating nanoparticles with polymers that give the particles a charge can attract desired, charged impurities. The strength and adjustability of magnetic fields can allow a more efficient and thorough separation of those impurities.



  1. S. Ko, et al., Amine functionalized magnetic nanoparticles for removal of oil droplets from produced water and accelerated magnetic separation. Journal of Nanoparticle Research (2017). doi: 10.1007/s11051-017-3826-6
  2. Image retrieved from:

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